Fasnachtsfieber (Fasnachts Fever), My Story as a Basel Fasnächtler
Hansjuerg Minder (1), October 2010, with translation assistance from Regina Kielholz
Everyone who grows up and lives in Basel will get to know sooner or later Fasnachtsfieber (Fasnacht fever). Those who are infected by it call the time of Fasnacht the three most beautiful days of the year. This is true for me too. Already as a child, I like many others, got pulled into the atmosphere of all that happens during Fasnacht. As soon as I could walk I wanted to be disguised [with a costume and mask] and become part of all the festivities. Mothers, aunts, and godmothers sew children their costumes. So my dream came true when my godmother made mine. Since then "Frau Fasnacht" (Miss Fasnacht) has had me in her grips.
When I was a child in kindergarten and school we always made handicrafts for the School Fasnacht that takes place on Friday before Morgestraich (the event that starts Fasnacht on Monday morning. The inner tension until the real Fasnacht starts was and still is almost unbearable for children. This still happens today.
As I became older, I did not want to walk around only disguised but I wanted to take part as a piccolo (small flute or fife) player or, as in my case, as a drummer. When I was seven years old, I entered a Clique (group) where I began to learn the drum. That meant practicing, practicing, and again practicing the whole year through. It took me four years of practicing until I could take part in the Cortège (parade) together with the Clique on Monday and Wednesday afternoon, and on Morgestraich.
The Basler (citizen of Basel) is known in Switzerland for his/her sharp tongue…maybe this comes from Schnitzelbänggle. Political, satirical verses are written and sung during Fasnacht on Monday and Wednesday evenings in specially-marked restaurants in the inner city of Basel. One, two, three, or four persons (men or women), with or without an instrument, but always with their masks on and therefore anonymous, perform on these evenings. As to me, at the age of 38, I started to write Schnitzelbänke (verses) and began performing as a Schnitzelbänkler. I have been active since then writing verses and performing in most years, most recently last 2009 in a group of three with a banjo-player. I have also been active in teaching young people the history of Fasnacht and introducing them to the music, costumes, and verses that make Fasnacht special.
Fasnacht in Basel is such a big event and there are so many possibilities to take active part in it. In fact, it is not possible to do or see everything in those three most beautiful days. So to decide what to do next year is a life long battle, at least it is to me.
This is a short version of my Fasnacht history. You will find thousands of variations of stories such as mine in Basel; together, they are as beautiful as a fairy tale of 1001 nights.